Countless TV pilots are shot, but many of them never make it to the screen.
Typically, the process of bringing a TV series to audiences begins with the production of a pilot episode and its screening for studio executives. They will either decide to make the show a series and film more episodes, or they will abandon it into the unknown, never to be heard from again. Furthermore, the pilot episode of a long-running series can look drastically different from what fans have come to know and love. Everything from different sets to new actors can make an audience feel completely unrecognizable. Did you know that a pilot episode of “Full House” was shot with someone other than Bob Saget as Danny Tanner? It may seem strange to think of anyone other than Saget in the role, but John Posey was the first actor to play it in the pilot.
The long-running police drama “Blue Bloods” is in the midst of its 12th season, and the actors and sets have become indelible in the minds of fans. However, after more than a decade, some aspects of the pilot episode seem completely out of place. Here are five things that viewers may have missed in the pilot.
Jamie has a new girlfriend.
It’s difficult to imagine Jamie Reagan (Will Estes) being romantically involved with anyone other than partner-turned-fiancé Officer Edit “Eddie” Jenko at this point (Vanessa Ray). However, if you rewatch the pilot episode today, you’ll be surprised to learn that Jamie was engaged to the brainy brunette, Sydney Davenport, long before Jenko arrived on the scene as his new partner in Season 4. (Dylan Moore).
Unlike the majority of the differences in the pilot episodes, this one has a five-episode storyline. Jamie Reagan’s decision to join the police academy after graduating from law school is one of his defining characteristics; this follows his older brother’s untimely and suspicious d3ath on the job. Sydney is incredibly supportive in the pilot episode — at least when she’s around the Reagans — but there’s clearly tension between them because she clearly isn’t entirely comfortable with her fiancé’s decision. Ultimately, being the wife of a police officer is too much for her, and when the couple cancels their wedding, she moves on with her life without him.
The kitchen was renovated.
The importance of set is one of the most important aspects of a TV series that viewers often overlook when reminiscing about their favorite shows. When a series comes to an end, the sets can become cultural icons. Who doesn’t remember “Friends'” fictional coffee shop Central Perk, or Jerry’s apartment in “Seinfeld,” where all the hijinks and conversations take place? And when it comes to “Blue Bloods,” perhaps no set is more important than the location where all those beloved family dinners are prepared.
That particular set, however, isn’t quite what you’d expect in the “Blue Bloods” pilot. For starters, the kitchen is much smaller. Two, it has white cabinets, and the color scheme changes to a more comfortable brown color throughout the rest of the series.
There was no explanation provided for the change. Perhaps it felt a little cozier, or the deeper color felt more appropriate for the show’s dark themes, or the set was simply rebuilt after the series was ordered. In any case, the kitchen has proven to be an essential component of the show. It took on a life of its own in some ways. This is where the family spends time bonding, razzing, or debating one another. How many times have viewers seen two characters in the kitchen and predicted what would happen?
A different actor played Nikki.
Recasts are common in most TV shows and film franchises, whether due to a conflict of interest — as in the case of Terrence Howard, who played James “Rhodey” Rhodes in the MCU before Don Cheadle took over — or an actor moving on to bigger and better things. On television, some of the most significant recastings occur from the pilot to the series, owing to the time lapse between filming the pilot and the rest of the episodes.
Nicky Reagan’s character underwent a similar transformation (Sami Gayle). While Gayle has become the face of the Reagan generation’s younger generation, the pilot episode presented the character with a new… well, face. Marlene Lawston, a young actress, was the first to play Nicky. There isn’t much information available on the actress’s motivation for the change, and since her IMDb page shows no other activity following her brief role on “Blue Bloods” — over a decade later — we can probably assume she moved on from acting to pursue a different path in life.
Henry’s leg had been repaired.
Len Cariou is well-aware of what he is doing. He is a brilliant actor who recognizes good theater and good character when he sees it. If you need proof of his brilliant foresight, look no further than his incredibly daring and award-winning performance of the first “Sweeney Todd” in the late 1970s (per PlayBill). Bringing his brilliance and foresight to “Blue Bloods,” he was cast as patriarch Henry Reagan.
While Cariou’s performance in the pilot was as strong as ever, the character was a little different — he walked with a cane, which is noticeably absent from the rest of the series. In fact, he is shown to be a remarkably spry man for his age later on in the series, as he is constantly involved with police matters. A hip replacement is the reason for the cane and limp mentioned in the first episode. The cane vanishes immediately and is never mentioned again.
Given that Henry is the head of the Reagan family, his constant display of strength and resolve is an important aspect of his personality. And, in some ways, even if he was supposed to use a cane, you could expect his Reagan stubbornness to keep him from doing so… just as it keeps him from giving up his driving privileges later in the season, when he is questioned about constant scrapes to the car.
Frank had a female companion.
Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) and his youngest son, Jamie, share two surprising similarities in the pilot episode. The first thing they have in common is that they are both in relationships. The second problem is that neither of them works.
Jamie’s fiancee abandons him because his job is too demanding for her. However, his father’s relationship ends due to betrayal.
Frank’s relationship, like Jamie’s, is a storyline that plays out on screen, though the latter’s love life comes to a halt within the span of one episode. In the pilot, Frank’s girlfriend, Kelly Davidson (Andrea Roth), is a reporter who uses him as a source for big stories. During the episode, Frank is dragged away, and Kelly gathers her news team, arriving at the cr1me scene before the cops. Frank understandably ends the relationship after this.
Frank is extremely private about his personal life, going to great lengths to keep his relationships (of which there are few) hidden even from his family. It’s easy to see why after Kelly’s actions in the pilot episode.